San Diego Padres: Early surprise: Matt Szczur a welcomed addition

jgoehring
May 9, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres pinch hitter Matt Szczur comes up to bat during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
May 9, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres pinch hitter Matt Szczur comes up to bat during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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The San Diego Padres may have found a bit of a diamond in the rough in Matt Szczur, acquiring him in a trade last Monday. The presence of the club’s newest member has had an immediate impact.

If back in spring training, San Diego Padres fans could look ahead to this point in the season, few would be surprised by most of what they see. A 14-23 record, disappointing, but realistic. Manuel Margot tearing it up in the outfield, alongside the supporting outfield cast consisting of Travis Jankowski, Alex Dickerson, Jabari Blash, and…. Matt Szczur?

Everything makes a lot of sense except for the 27-year-old outfielder. The addition, though under the radar, has yielded a pleasant surprise and a much needed boost in the outfield.

But who is this Szczur and where in the world did he come from? The world champion Chicago Cubs, actually, where he began his fourth major league season this April.

Under performing to begin the year as a utility outfielder with the Cubs, he was dealt to San Diego in exchange for right-handed prospect Justin Hancock.  It looks, as of now, that the Padres got the better end of this deal. A change of scenery has made all the difference for Szczur, who is off to a hot start with his new team.

A small sample size, no doubt, but the former Cub is hitting .385 in 14 plate appearances, with five knocks including a blast in Friday night’s game on the first pitch he faced back in Chicago.

Maybe it’s just the impact of a fresh start or a change of scenery, of maybe Szczur’s success comes as a result of consistently starting for a stretch of days and sensing the faith his new teammates have in him.

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It’s not just the 27-year-old’s hitting that makes him serviceable though. In the outfield, Szczur is a very reliable fielder who can play in left or right. This is a major bonus to the club because of the injuries to Dickerson and Jankowski, each on the DL possibly until the end of the month.

As of now, the Padres are in a very favorable position with Szczur. He has played some of his best baseball of his career in his limited time with the club so far, and has the potential to become an outfield mainstay. Szczur has also struck the happy medium of earning the trust of his teammates and manager and knowing that he should be in the lineup every day, but also not feeling the pressure of being in the middle of the order, as the Padres have penciled him in towards the bottom.

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Consistency will be key, and the Padres could use a little bit of stability. But for now, Matt Szczur has come through and surprised a lot of fans. Out of nowhere, yes, but that doesn’t mean Szczur can’t become a staple in the outfield, even after Dickerson and Jankowski return.

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